The Dallas Cowboys are in good shape heading into the 2019 season. For 30 teams in the league, the offseason has already begun and it's time to improve those rosters. Naturally, this means months of discussing how the team should approach free agency and each of the draft picks they own await us. Today, we won't be talking about the Dallas Cowboys top needs, though. Instead, let's take a look at three positions in which the Cowboys will need help, but that many are underrating.
Of course, these are positions the front office won't be looking to prioritize but that could use help in the later rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Let's get to it.
Brett Maher's story in Dallas was actually pretty interesting. It began with the release of one of the greatest Cowboys in team history. After an amazing career wearing the Star, Dan Bailey's injury and signs of regression cost him his job. Enter Maher, who had yet to make a kick in the NFL. He had spent most of his career in the CFL and his time in the NFL was limited to preseason and offseason action only.
After missing his first attempt for the Cowboys in week 1, the 29-year old kicker went on a hot streak, nailing 15 consecutive attempts. Since then he missed seven field goals (including playoffs), scoring in only 68% of his kicks. Certainly, the Cowboys shouldn't be comfortable going into 2019 with Maher as the kicker.
Sure, they could be okay with him, but they could also do a lot better. I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to draft a kicker on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Before you pick up your torches after my "draft a kicker" suggestion, think about how many seventh rounders actually make the 53-man roster. If a quality prospect for the job is there, take him.
La'el Collins had a rough 2018. Although he did improve as the season went on (specifically once Marc Colombo took over as OL coach), he probably didn't do enough to lock up a contract extension. Collins' contract expires in 2019. The Cowboys are set to have a lot of cap space at their disposal, but their priorities will likely be somewhere else rather than in extending Collins. Drafting a young talent to develop him for the future should be an option for the front office.
Plus, they could use the depth. Tyron Smith's play has suffered as much as the longtime left tackle has suffered injuries. We've seen how much the unit struggles when he's out. Dak Prescott would definitely appreciate a decent backup.
Yes, I'm aware of who Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are. In fact, they're undoubtedly one of the best linebacker duos in the entire NFL. However, I'm also aware that Sean Lee will be 33 years old next season and that he's a candidate to be a cap casualty. And even if he isn't, he likely won't be around for the 2020 season.
The Cowboys count with some interesting names on the linebacker's depth chart, but I'd definitely consider drafting one if he's the best player on the board on Day 3. One of the biggest problems for the team on the playoffs versus the Rams was the linebackers. The NFC Champion's running game exhausted the Cowboys' front seven as they managed to control the time of possession and wreck the defense.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Safety
To many onlookers, the safety position is considered the biggest need right now for the Dallas Cowboys. It is arguably their most talked-about spot headed into the 2019 NFL Draft, expected to be addressed with one of the team's highest picks.
After sending their first-round pick to Oakland for WR Amari Cooper, the Cowboys are limited in their current draft capital. Their need at safety and tight end is comparable, and I personally believe higher at TE than any other roster position.
I put tight end above safety because at every spot on the two depth charts, I think safety has a slight advantage in terms of current talent:
- Young Prospect: Xavier Woods > Blake Jarwin
- Veteran: George Iloka > Jason Witten
- Depth: Heath/Frazier > Schultz/Gathers
That Iloka/Witten comparison might stun you, but remember that this is 2019 and Witten just spent a year doing commentary. I'm not talking about Jason's Hall of Fame career, but just what he brings to the table this season.
But you see my point; safety seems stronger across the board. Woods looks like a long-term starter and Iloka, a newly-added free agent, could have 2-3 years of solid veteran play left in him.
So yes, I think TE is a greater need. But that doesn't mean Dallas won't use their second round pick on a safety.
The decision at the 58th pick will come down to a variety of factors. Even if Dallas agrees with me that TE is their biggest need, will the right guy be available? Or will the depth at the position be great enough that the Cowboys decide they can afford to wait until the third round for a TE, and prefer to go ahead and grab their safety earlier?
One name we've seen liked to Dallas several times in draft prep is UVA's Juan Thornhill. He converted from cornerback to safety last year, which means he has the man-on-man coverage skills that the Cowboys love for the position.
That kind of player being available at their second-round pick will push the Cowboys hard to take safety. He might even be able to come in and compete for a starting job right away.
In fact, we could see a trade-up this year. With two fourth-round picks this year and their fifth, Dallas could try to work their way higher into the second to land someone they really like. Thornhill is just the kind of talent they might be willing to do that for.
Of course, there are plenty of other safety options the Cowboys might like better. And if they have their eye on someone who could fall into the middle rounds, such as Alabama's Deionte Thompson or Boston College's Will Harris, perhaps they wait a short time and address TE, DT, or RB with their early picks.
But I don't see Dallas waiting on a safety this year. For all I know, they just might see it as their top need. At the least, it's probably in their top 2-3.
Given that, I expect to see one drafted on Day 2.
Draft Likelihood: 100%
Projected Round: 2nd-3rd
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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Running Back
The Dallas Cowboys have general depth across the roster right now, but you can't include the running back position in that statement. Ezekiel Elliott is a superstar but Rod Smith is a free agent and the rest of the RBs have barely any playing experience. Could Dallas use the 2019 NFL Draft to fill this need?
Zeke will be in Dallas for at least two more years, and hopefully well beyond that. He has one year left on his standard rookie contract and now has the fifth-year option added for 2020. The Cowboys claim to want a long-term deal with Elliott and will likely get that figured out sometime next year.
As good and as durable as Zeke is, it's still dangerous to put all of your RB eggs in one basket. The Cowboys have gotten by with Rod Smith as their backup the last two years, though they may have suffered a bit during Elliott's 2017 suspension. A more dynamic player could've helped them then, and is probably even more important to find now.
Darius Jackson is the current RB2, and though he's flashed athletic ability during preseason games there's been no production in real NFL action. He has six more carries in his career than our other reserve, Jordan Chunn, who spent all of last year on the practice squad.
If the Cowboys are serious about championship contention going forward, can they risk having such a weak depth chart at running back? If Ezekiel Elliott were to go down, he could take any hopes of the Super Bowl right with him.
Free agency is one way Dallas could solve this problem. There are still some solid veterans out there like Jay Ajayi, Doug Martin, or Spencer Ware. They could even re-sign Rod Smith, at least getting system familiarity and strong special teams play out of their backup.
However, having not signed any of those veterans yet, it seems Dallas may be focused on the 2019 Draft to find their backup running back. They likely will turn to a free agent if they don't come away from this weekend with a solid rookie.
It will be interesting to see how this draft goes with the running back class. There are no Elliotts, Barkleys, or Fournettes in this group; 2019 could be a year where no RB gets taken in the first round.
There are two sides to that coin. On the one hand, it means Dallas could potentially land a top prospect like Penn State's Miles Sanders with their second-round pick. But it could also means that this entire RB group is suspect; a weak class that could lead to a lot of disappointments all around.
Another scenario is that other RB-needy teams scoop up top names before the Cowboys come on the board. If that happens, Dallas will likely use the 58th pick on another position and hope to find a steal at running somewhere on Day 3.
In truth, I don't expect the Cowboys to take any RB as high as the second round. The potential is there if the right guy falls to them, but it would be unwise to pass on a potential starter at safety, tight end, or some other spot just to draft Zeke's backup.
If they do draft a RB early, Dallas could be making a pretty big statement about how committed they are to Elliott beyond 2020.
What seems far more likely in this draft is that the Cowboys will use a mid-round pick on a guy like Bryce Love, whose pure speed make him a nice change-up player behind Elliott. A guy like Love doesn't threaten Zeke's status as the top dog, simply giving the offense a new toy to work with.
With two picks in the fourth round and one in the fifth, this seems a pretty good range for where Dallas will find their backup runner. They will likely go with some combination of TE, DT, and S with their first two picks on Friday night.
Even if the Cowboys do draft a RB this weekend, don't be shocked if they still add one of the veteran free agents. They may bring in a guy simply for insurance during training camp and the preseason. And at this point in the offseason, they should be able to sign him for a minimal deal.
We'll find out soon just how Dallas plans to address their backup RB position. Will it be with an eye to the future, perhaps wanting to guard against any contract issues with Ezekiel Elliott? Or will it be a player who clearly is here to supplement Zeke rather than replace him?
Draft Likelihood: 90%
Projected Round: 4th-5th
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Final 2019 Dallas Cowboys 7-Round Mock Draft
After months of anticipation and buildup, the 2019 NFL Draft is finally upon us! Yes, the Dallas Cowboys are without a first-round draft pick due to the Amari Cooper trade, but in my opinion this just makes this years draft that much more exciting. I don't know about you, but I'm already on the edge of my seat waiting to find out which prospects will still be on the board for the Cowboys at 58 in the second-round.
If the Dallas Cowboys absolutely had to be without a first-round draft pick, this is probably the best year to not have one. The 2019 draft class is pretty deep at several positions the Cowboys could be targeting. They should be able to come away with some talented players who can come in and improve the roster as rookies. There may not be very many starting jobs up for grabs, but make no mistake, these incoming rookies are the future of the organization.
But enough of beating around the bush, let's get to my final Dallas Cowboys 7-round mock draft…
R2/26 - DAL: Trysten Hill, DT, UCF
I have a sneaky suspicion the safeties the Dallas Cowboys could be targeting at 58 will be wiped out, which could put them in no man's land in regards to the positions they could be targeting. Trysten Hill may be a little bit of a reach here, but I doubt he makes it to 90. He is the athletic, disruptive DT Rod Marinelli covets in his defensive front. He has the versatility to play the 1 or 3-technique and should push Maliek Collins for playing time as a rookie.
R3/26 - DAL: Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
Mecole Hardman has the potential to be the versatile weapon the Dallas Cowboys are currently missing on the roster. He can be a deep threat, "gadget" player, return specialist, emergency CB, and a key member on special teams. He's still a little raw as a WR prospect, but has the makings to become something great and would provide a really a good insurance policy if Randall Cobb continues to struggle remaining healthy. I believe he will develop into a Tyreek Hill type of offensive weapon in the NFL in a year or two.
R4/26 - DAL: Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State
Ideally either Jace Sternberger or Dawson Knox falls to the Cowboys here with the first of their fourth-round picks, but Kahale Warring is the next best thing. He is still a little raw, but has the strength and athletic ability to be a future starting tight end in the NFL after a little seasoning. Playing behind one of the best TEs to ever play the game in Jason Witten could be exactly what Warring needs to put his development on the fast track.
R4/34 - DAL: Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State
The Dallas Cowboys have been pretty forthcoming about adding a "starting caliber" RB behind Ezekiel Elliott, and Alexander Mattison fits the criteria. He is a crafty runner who runs with good vision and patience, which allows his blocks to set up. He is a big, physical back with only average straight-line speed, but his tenacious mentality as a runner wears down defenses and reminds me a little bit of Marion "The Barbarian" Barber. He has every-down back potential and would make a really good RB2 behind Zeke.
R5/27 - DAL: Sheldrick Redwine, S, Miami
The Cowboys may have missed out on one of the most athletically gifted safeties in the draft at 58 in Juan Thornhill, but Sheldrick Redwine is a nice consolation prize. He had the second best SPARQ score amongst all safeties this year behind only Thornhill and surprisingly has the same type of skill set and versatility. His background at CB shows up in coverage, but he needs to become a much more reliable tackler and take better angles in the running game before he can be relied upon. He has starting potential though after little a more seasoning.
R7/27 - DAL: Cole Holcomb, LB, UNC
I wanted to give Kris Richard a new tall, lengthy CB here in Chris Westry or Derrick Baity, but I think the Cowboys can get one of the two as an undrafted free agent. Cole Holcomb on the other hand wouldn't go undrafted in my opinion, hence his selection here. He is an instinctive and athletically gifted linebacker who played all three LB positions in UNC's 4-3 defensive scheme. He has starting potential, but would be a depth and special teams contributor as a rookie.
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